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Narrow majority supports Common Core

Rochester Business Journal
February 21, 2014

Fifty-three percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll support the Common Core educational standards.

The state’s Board of Regents approved changes last week to implementation of Common Core standards but put off a decision on altering the process for evaluating educators.

The board voted to adopt 18 changes. Among them: the requirement to pass Common Core-based English and math exams was extended; the class of 2022, not the class of 2017, will be the first to face the college- and career-ready standards.

New York is one of 45 states—plus the District of Columbia—that have adopted the requirements developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, an effort sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to ensure that students nationwide are prepared to enter college programs or the workforce when they graduate from high school.

Student scores on annual standardized tests in New York dropped sharply last spring after assessments for third through eighth grades were aligned with the new standards.

Business groups, among others, have backed the Common Core standards. Opponents include the New York State United Teachers union, whose board of directors recently withdrew its support for Common Core as implemented and called for a three-year moratorium on “high-stakes consequences” from standardized testing. Legislation to suspend the Common Core has been introduced in Albany.

A slight majority of Snap Poll respondents said teachers and principals facing termination due to poor test results should be allowed to cite problems with the Common Core rollout as a defense.

Roughly 525 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Feb. 17 and 18.

In general, do you support or oppose the Common Core educational standards?
Support: 53%
Oppose: 47%

Do you support or oppose the Board of Regents’ new changes to implementing the Common Core standards?
Support: 46%
Oppose: 54%

Should teachers and principals facing termination due to poor test results be allowed to cite problems with the Common Core rollout as a defense?
Yes: 52%
No: 48%

COMMENTS:

We will continue to lose good teachers if this politically charged issue continues to be determined from the top down. Lawmakers should be required to teach a year in the classroom. They are too ignorant of the issues facing teachers every single day.
—Martha Welch

Common Core in its entirety needs to go. I have done a vast amount of research on this subject and have found no redeeming qualities.
—Kevin Kelly

Common Core curriculum needs to be stopped completely. It is developmentally inappropriate at its best and abusive at its worst. The standards could be taught appropriately with local teacher input and collaboration; however, the curriculum that New York State is adopting is horrific. It was easier and more cost-effective for districts to adopt what New York is offering rather than create something that supports our children.
—Christi Dickenson

The Common Core Standards have many positive aspects, but the preparation and implementation get failing grades. Students are being tested on material for which no curriculum had been provided; teachers receive no analysis of student strengths/weaknesses, so the tests cannot inform instruction. Materials that have been provided are not field-tested, and some are not developmentally appropriate, especially for the youngest students. The botched implementation is a setback for any national standards.
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT

I don’t agree with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Each and every child has their own learning styles. Our children aren’t carbon copies of each other, so therefore they shouldn’t be forced to be tested at the same standards Common Core has implemented. My children are not homogenous drones! My children are free thinkers, free learners and free doers! They are individuals with individual learning styles and should be taught to highlight their individuality! We are not a cookie-cutter society!
—Maritza Cabrera

It is time that we stopped allowing the teachers’ union protection of poor teachers. They should be shown the door, along with the union. While I have problems with adopting “Common Core” anything, if this is the only way to improve our city’s education system, I am all for it. This would not have been necessary if it was not for the teachers’ union far-left, radical, liberalistic obstructionism. Do what is right for our children instead of holding onto dead wood and worrying about how much you can squeeze out of every other working family for your health care and retirement programs. Start thinking about providing a good product instead of standing in the way of our children’s futures.
—Michael Higgins, Rochester

If the teachers union is against Common Core, then Common Core is probably a good thing for the students and education overall.
—Rick Corey, Penfield

My children deserve an education based on proven curriculum and written by educators!
—Danielle Haen

Standardized testing like this presents a quandary. On one hand, testing needs to be done to evaluate learning and assess student achievement. On the other hand, testing like this leads to educators “training” students to pass the tests rather than teaching students and enabling them to obtain the knowledge and skills in order to do well on the tests.
—David Belcher, LeRoy

Common Core came down from the federal government. Education should be a local concern. Our Constitution reserves this right to the states. When federal government rules, freedom vanishes!
—John L. Sackett Jr., Byron

We in the business world have to adapt to change constantly, and often quickly. Sometimes we’re the architects of that change; sometimes not. Probably our circumstances—demanding as they are to be nimble and adaptable—make us less sympathetic to the long lead times some teachers seem to want to embrace new standards. But here’s the thing: Kids and their parents need to embrace the new standards, too. Unfortunately, there are a few ways to hold that side of the equation accountable, so I can understand some teacher angst about being judged solely by overall student outcomes, rather than, in part, by student effort.
—Carolyn Rankin, Phinney Rankin Inc.

I am a math teacher at a high-performing school district. The Common Core standards themselves are well-conceived and are focused on the concepts and practices that will serve students well in the years to come. The problem is that you are dramatically changing expectations of what students are expected to do in the middle of their education. Current ninth-graders taking math have had only one year of challenging Common Core-type problems. This puts them at a great disadvantage when challenging higher-level tasks of this type. They don’t have the practice (or) the appropriate base skills needed to be successful.
—Anthony Martellotta, Pittsford Mendon High School

Take a hard look at the Common Core, and you will find it favors mediocrity over excellence. In fact, the so-called “leaders” who continue to push it do not deny this. In my view, this is not in our children’s best interests. I strongly oppose the Common Core.
—Jack Anthony

I definitely support a more rigorous curriculum for our schools. That being said, I also believe the rollout of the Common Core has not been optimum. Incremental implementation over time would help … the changes become more easily accepted, especially in light of the fact that educators’ jobs are potentially on the line based on student test scores. We cannot take a system that has been broken for more than a decade and attempt to fix it in just a few years. Common Core and standardization amongst our state schools is a logical idea; however, the way it is being introduced does not appear to be achieving the desired results. When parents pull their children out of school in protest, that sends a poor message to the child who is responsible to learn the material. There needs to be more cooperation between all parties involved in the process: School administrators, parents, teachers and students all need to be working together to get this program off the ground and onto a successful path.
—L.S. Decker, MVP Health Care

Common Core is nothing more than selling out public education to Pearson Corp. The elites who make these decisions do not send their kids to public schools, so they will not pay the consequences.
—Chris Pantaleo, Penfield

I feel strongly that control of education should be locally based. I do not believe in central control or interference. The Regents for New York State is fine, but keep out all those national programs like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core.” With standards coming from outside New York State, there is less local and community investment, which is much more important that any standard or guideline. If you want to see the effects of local involvement, all you have to do is look up and down Monroe Avenue. At one end of Monroe Avenue, you have some of the best schools in the state as well as the country, and at the other end of Monroe Avenue, you have some of the worst-performing schools in the state as well as the country.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.

Common Core can provide a valuable comparative measure of the aggregate preparedness of students in a specific school district, state or nation for participation in work, civics and lifelong learning. Aggregate standardized test scores are not useful, however, for the evaluation of educators. For testing to be a useful element of teacher evaluation, it must be based on the change in preparedness that the educator has produced for each student in the measurement period. Students should be tested at the beginning of the period and at the end, and the individual results for students in that teacher's class should be examined to help determine how effective the teaching has been. The way that mass testing has been used so far will always result in skewed results among teachers based on the relative preparedness of their students for learning. Factors like the socioeconomic class or educational disabilities of students should have no effect on teacher evaluations. Mass testing does not adjust for these factors. Why this simple concept has been so hard for politicians and the general public to understand is one of the great mysteries of the universe.
—Rob Brown, ESOP Plus

While we are facing terrible results in graduation rates and lack of basic skills in this country, it is unbelievable that our educators and the teachers' unions continually avoid standards and accountability.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan

Children are not widgets. Our current educational system is for adult convenience, not for children's benefit.
—David Sutliff-Atias, Center for Disability Rights

When will we finally realize that the only way to improve education standards is to return decision making to state and local school districts? Throwing more money and constantly promoting new top-down programs just don't work. Why are we so blind to the success of religious education and charter schools? This is the model we should be following.
—Todd Baker, Henrietta

The one-size-fits-all approach NEVER is good for students or teachers. Both the creation of the standards and the implementation were flawed. This is the federal government's way of holding the states hostage for funding. Absolutely oppose Common Core!
—Claire Kennedy, Ignite

While not implemented well, the standards are a good thing. When 50% of college entrants have to take at least one remedial class, at their own expense, there's a problem with what is being taught/learned through grade 12. Even if the student plans to enter the workforce directly out of high school, they need to be better prepared to perform jobs that require a higher skill level than in years past. What is NOT working is the over-emphasis on common testing. Teachers need to be given more autonomy and flexibility to allow their students to demonstrate their knowledge in the best way that works for them.
—S. Wyatt

At its root the Common Core standards strive to teach kids to think critically and aim to tie all disciplines together (i.e. math and English, science and history, etc.).
—Phil Trautman

After too many years of "dumbing down" our school system, (and) by far too many factions involved in the running of a school system, it is time to "draw the line in the sand" and put the interests of both our children and our country above those who have been "dumbing down" the system for their own selfish reasons and/or inadequacies.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

The passages used for English questions are poor examples of formal writing. Often times questions are incredibly vague. Several answers properly answer the question fully and completely, leaving the correct answer to be a matter of opinion. The Math section is no better. Some questions are simple comparisons between two numbers which should be asked of students several grade levels lower. Other questions promote using meaningless calculations to simply obtain the same number as started with. The actual concepts are hidden, making math seem more complicated than it truly is. It is easy to see how programs like this can turn students away from mathematics, English. Furthermore, these students are less prepared when held to a higher standard upon moving to a high school or a college.
—Dan Viola

In the world of work, you either meet expectation or face remediation or termination. Even if Common Core standards are not "perfect," ongoing evaluation and revisions should be expected. If students and teachers are not meeting standards, we should evaluate the results and modify the curriculum and remediate teachers who fail to meet those standards. Teachers unions have become too powerful and inflexible to the detriment of student performance. With the regents allowing delay, students will enter either higher education or the labor force unprepared to perform. Good teachers will not only teach to the test, but provide students with the conceptual context to understand the test questions as well as be prepared for lifelong learning. There are states and cities where students do very well meeting the required standards. Why don't we have some of their top-performing educators undertake "peer reviews" of our schools and adopt a supporting role to help our schools succeed”? I'm tired of all the "self-esteem" approaches that worry about how students feel, rather than challenging them to meet ever higher standards.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester

Our society needs young people who are knowledgeable, capable of reasoning through problems and who can express themselves well both verbally and in writing. Our historical education system has not graduated enough young people that satisfy this need. I think that the Common Core will do better, providing that parents hold their children responsible for doing their homework.
—Doug Flood

Common Core is destroying our educational system. Students and teachers are under too much pressure to perform. Students are failing and teachers are fighting amongst themselves. No one is happy. As the mother of a preschooler, I am worried about what this will mean for my child once he reaches kindergarten and beyond. I am considering sending him to private kindergarten just to keep him away from these standards for an extra year. I heard recently from a parent whose child attended half-day kindergarten with no music or art program because there was not time for anything but academics AND they had nightly homework. Unacceptable. Passing a standardized test is not the only way to measure success. Socialization is just as important as any academic subject. Our children deserve to grow up confident, capable, and ready for the adult world. There are many ways to get there, but Common Core is not it.
—Emily Carpenter, WhizBang! Web Solutions LLC

The changes do not fix this "grand experiment" with our children's education that will result in the U.S. falling further behind to the rest of the world. The rollout is flawed. The curriculum is flawed. It's time to pull the plug and return to what works with a changed focus to teach to educate, instead of teach to a test.
—Jeff Piersall

I am absolutely opposed to the Common Core Standards as they are now. I have no problem with educational reform, but the way these standards were developed is completely backwards. I have first-hand experience with them not being age appropriate. I am disappointed with Gov. Cuomo's handling of the entire situation. I am currently searching for a non-Common Core aligned school for my child.
—Lyndsey Short

Where in the U.S. Constitution does it say the federal government has a role in our education system? Abolish Common Core, terminate the federal Education Department, and leave it to the states.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.

While I believe that students and teachers need to be evaluated, I firmly believe they are not smart about how they are rolling out Common Core, testing, the APPR and SLOs. Our kids do not need to continue pushing and working with a flawed one-size-fits-all system. Eliminate the CC, get smart about student assessments, get some teachers who have had actual classroom experience on these panels to help streamline our educational platforms and most of all: get the government and politics OUT of our education system and leave it to the local districts to plan for our children's education.
—Lisa Wyzykowski, Elma

Textbook INDOCTRINATION! We should not stand for curriculum that teaches our children that America is not great. America is now a post-constitutional republic, however, we cannot stop fighting for her survival. I STRONGLY oppose the progressive direction in which OUR country is headed.
—Joe Dattilo

Common Core is the wrong solution to the many problems with our educational system. The main culprits are parents who are not vested in their kids' education, the power of the teachers' unions which prevent lousy teachers from being fired, and an unwillingness among educators to separate high and low achievers to ensure that everyone is challenged.
—Karen Zilora, Creative Scanning Solutions Inc.

Common Core is more complicated than a support/oppose referendum. Having standards for learning is not evil. Students are meant to learn after all. Dumbing down a curriculum so that a high percentage of children get great grades is a short-term "solution" with long-term consequences. Prescribing a curriculum that is ignorant of cognitive development is not a solution. Being confrontational with the very teachers who are to deliver the curriculum is a setup for belligerent classrooms. Children are told the material is too hard for them and that they are destined to fail. Until we get over the either-or mentality to develop a challenging curriculum that is keeping with childhood brain development, there will be kids and teachers who fail in part because they live up to that expectation. I recall the words of an amazing music teacher who had children ages 5-8 singing in 4 parts while dancing. "I never told them it was hard. I just showed them how!" Simple - perhaps. Results - beyond what the "world" expected.
—Donna Cullen

Education decisions should be determined by each state at the state level. The federal government should not be in the business of education with unfunded mandates and a one-size- fits-all approach. Allowing each state to determine their own standards and needs will make our education system better by competition between states and sharing of best practices. States that provide solid educational opportunity will attract the best and brightest and reap the economic rewards in doing so. Common Core has become a national past time for beating up on teachers whom have become social workers, the police, substitute parents, and do less teaching as a result. Dodging any criticism is administration, whom were former teachers, which in my opinion are not properly trained and whose mission is to find fault with teachers instead of working to allow teachers the ability and time to primarily teach, prepare, improve, stay current, collaborate and lesson plan. Teachers should not be doing the work administrators should be doing or administrators creating unnecessary work for teachers to justify their existence.
—Dave Rusin, East Rochester

There is a misconception that the CCSS represent a more "rigorous" curriculum and course of study. This is not true. See testimony provided by Dr. James Milgram and Dr. Sandra Stotsky— educational experts that refused to sign off on CCSS. The new standards are a cookie cutter, one- size-fits-all approach to education that does not serve students interests. They are untested, unproven, and are developmentally inappropriate for children in the lower grades. I would like to see higher standards for our students; CCSS does NOT provide that. Additionally, too often, in a quest for higher quality education, this is interpreted to mean "higher intensity." There is a difference, and the latter may in fact be harmful to young children or those with special education needs. Finally, CCSS makes no accommodation for accelerated learners or gifted and talented students. The presumption that they are challenged by CCSS, or the associated EngageNY curriculum, is simply false.
—Dorothy Petrie, chairperson, Webster P.A.C.E. (Parents Advocating Challenge in Education)

I feel strongly that all children, maybe except the mentally retarded, should learn all that is necessary for a basic life. Teachers and principals should not be punished for failing youngsters. Punishing teachers is a cheap, politically convenient and mean approach. The problem is with those youngsters that either don't have the capacity or refuse to learn. I am applauding that NYS is supporting a common basic standard. Children have different capacities; some are brainy, others are handy. It is a fault of the system to push both in the same academic fields. The handy ones may lose out. Vocational training for those who have those skills should be increased. The USA is missing uniformly well-trained workers all over. In my career, there was no trained chemical technician to be had. Even those with a BS were ill-prepared. There is a lot to be done to bring our children and adults to international levels of the best industrial countries.
—Ingo H. Leubner

Common Core is Obamacare in education, designed to "dumb down" our kids and stagnate their learning abilities. This was designed to give minorities a leg up in society. Lowering the standards to make lower-IQ kids feel smarter, hoping they will stay in school and out of jail, isn't the way to improve society. Thugs will not learn unless they choose to and most are too lazy to do that. Obama has seen to it that the lazy will stay lazy no matter what opportunities they are given; the more you give, the more they will take. You cannot make silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
—Missy Bulley

Please STOP Common Core!!!! Our country deserve better.
—Lisa Henderson, Red House Daycare

Common Core needs to be abolished!
—Debbie Patt

Besides a very unrealistic expectation on how children will learn under this “new” method, I am very concerned about the agenda to make little citizens out of them, all fitting in someone's mold. If children are failing, it's not from teachers and schools. I see uninspired, uninvolved parents or those who are lost as to how to help a struggling child.
—Debra E. Marvin

The issue here is not the adoption of common educational standards but the flawed implementation of these standards. If the state Education Department were functioning effectively it would have delayed implementation and engaged practitioners (classroom teachers, building and central office administrators) in establishing a realistic and systematic way to roll out these standards. After 41 years in the field of education my experiences inform me that teachers and administrators would embrace common standards if they were part of the planning process.
—Dr. W. Bruce Gorman, retired school administrator and educational consultant

The Board of Regents' changes do not improve or affect the day-to-day changes the Common Core standards and instructional shifts have brought to our K-12 classrooms. The new standards and approaches are an untested experiment, funded by large corporate stakeholders, who do not have the best interests of children at heart. The true experts (namely, child development specialists) were not involved in creating these standards, and it shows. The Common Core standards lower the bar for expectations in Grade 12, in a one-size-fits-all approach, and the back-mapped standards haphazardly distribute skills down through the early elementary grades, often in developmentally inappropriate ways. The public is being sold a bill of goods with NYSED's pitch of "higher standards." New York's children deserve much better than Common Core curriculum and tests.
—Marie Little

Common Core is a sort of nationwide educational mania which is premised on the assertion that America is an educational mess. And Common Core proponents … folks mostly well beyond the reality of the classroom … insist that a monumental, national overhaul is the only option if we are to save ourselves from inevitable doom. It's all nonsense. Are American schools this dreadful failure that Common Core proponents assert? Everywhere one looks the suggestion is put to rest. America is the premier economic and political force on the planet ... and it's hardly about to be unseated. We enjoy the highest standard of living for the largest number of people in the history of the planet. Our economy sets the course for the world. America sets the cutting edge for medicine, technology, and sciences of all sorts. American based businesses are world-wide models. Our universities are the most favored in the world ... with students from every edge of the planet elbowing their way for admission. Our armed forces are the envy of all ... not just for our might, but for our technology and innovations. Our airlines crowd the heavens, our rail system hauls more people and cargo than any other, and our hospitals are magnets for patients seeking miracle procedures that can only be found here in the states. I'll stop there. America is hardly doomed. Any society as large as America will always have uneven educational performances. American education does not ... and will never have ... coast-to-coast agreement on what constitutes a proper preparation for the future. The nation is enormous. Regional differences abound despite our technological glue. And because of that size we can witness different approaches to the goal of what constitutes a successful educational experience. And the prescriptions for that success are varied ... and as valued as all the others. Do we have schools in need of repair? Of course we do. Do we have schools of excellence? Damn right we do ... and plenty of them. In our own county we have many of the top schools systems in the nation ... and a few very troubled districts as well. Many of those gaps can be understood in economic and population differences. But overwhelmingly, in poll after poll, parents of school-age children express great satisfaction with their youngsters' school experience. Overwhelmingly. Get that? But CC proponents insist that the only solution to a problem that doesn't exist is to prescribe a course of action that is untested … devised by business leaders and wobbly state leaders who've never spent a day much less a year in an actual classroom. The Common Core solution? Toss the baby out with the bath water. Install new curricula and never-ending, high-stake, high-anxiety testing from coast to coast ... to fix a system that is hardly broken. Test-terrorize children from September 'til June and robotize education so that every child plays the same note, in the same way, at the same time, with the same material ... and then digitizing the growth 9 and 10 year old children as though they were petri
dish goo. What sloppy stuff.
—Denis Ian

The 18 changes really haven't done a thing to change the rollout of the Common Core. Students in grade 3-8 still must take the NYS assessments that tell you how students perform on one day and are costing the tax payers of NYS more than they are worth. There is a hidden cost that no one in NYS state knows about and that is the time it takes administrators and teachers away from the class room to administer, organize rating, secure the tests, train the raters of the assessments, the actual rating of the test, securing them the whole time under lock and key and organizing them for storage and sending them off to the data storage site and the destruction sites. This process takes many many teachers and administrators many many hours to accomplish. A complete waste of money. This is what the Board of Regents needs to address. The test gives very little evidence of students' abilities. No new information that could not be gleaned from other sources.
—Marjorie Bailey

Common Core math is educationally unsound and is not age appropriate. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with Piaget's hierarchy knows this. Much of the simplest arithmetic is presented in a confusing, convoluted manner. Change for the sake of change has no value. Common Core has no value. To judge teacher effectiveness based on a program whose effectiveness has not been proven is ludicrous and beyond insulting to teachers who are being forced into this program.
—Donna Adam

The Common Core standards are ridiculous. They are not supported by research. The emphasis on standardized testing that has resulted from this "reform movement" has moved us backwards, not forwards. New York should remove the Common Core and create its own standards.
—Jim Jefferis

Common Core has many parents and educators very frustrated. From inappropriate homework to a database of information on each individual child from K-12. We demand to see Common Core taken out of every school across America. We will not stop speaking up and fighting for excellent education for all our children. Rest assured, Common Core does not meet these standards we hold for our children.
—Amy Templeton, Templeton Fabrics

Core standards would be good if written appropriately. The CCSS are NOT. They are not developmentally appropriate in the younger grades and are not as challenging as the standards they are replacing in the higher grades. The cumulative effect of which has been creating burn-out and hopelessness and anxiety—some of which has morphed into mentally ill children who have only survived after being withdrawn to start homeschooling. Mental health professionals have repeatedly testified to that publicly and in written material. See here and here for full statements. Jason Zimbia, the tertiary level academic who developed the Math portion of the CCSS, is in the video below giving testimony on the Common Core State Standards to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on March 23, 2010. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita of Education Reform in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, is questioning Zimbia in this segment. As anyone can see or hear for themselves, he is stating that the Common Core Math Standards are NOT university-ready nor are they going to prepare students for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. College-ready as defined by him, one of two authors of the Common Core Math Standards, really means "community-college ready" and only go up through Algebra 2. So students will only be exposed to Math up through Algebra 2. That will not allow students to be ready for STEM fieldsand  not to be admitted to the more challenging universities with higher standards where most research is done. THAT IS PREPOSTEROUS! The workforce in our nation will no longer be able to supply STEM fields and will lose out internationally with more jobs going overseas than currently are doing so. Our economy will be permanently crippled until higher level math is once again taught in high schools so that students are ready for university and STEM fields. All parts of the economy including the tax base will be eroded. HOW are these new standards helpful for anyone but the students who wouldn't be in trigonometry, analytic geometry or calculus anyway? WHY is there only one track in the Common Core Standards that requires students gifted in certain areas to study at a level that is surely below their interest and ability level? Common Core State Standards as they are written are not going to be good for students, families or our nation as a whole. There should be multiple educational tracks: those for STEM, those university-bound, those going to community college and those who are most gifted when doing an apprenticeship for say, plumbing, electrician, heating/cooling, construction, etc. Common Core lumps each of those students into one level that does not serve 3 of the 4 student populations just mentioned. WAKE UP AMERICA.
—Julie Horne

2/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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